Gold Motel to bring retro-pop to DeKalb


Greta Morgan and Gold Motel will play The House Cafe during Middlewest Fest Saturday. Morgan describes the title band’s debut album “Summer House” as an analogy for her year in California after moving there from Chicago.

By Troy Doetch

After the Chicago-based The Hush Sound announced their hiatus, singer/songwriter Greta Morgan took to the west coast. Leaving behind the Midwest, she spent a year and a half living out her dream: studying music and immersing herself in the California music scene.

It was under the Southern California sun that she wrote the material that would be the basis for Gold Motel, the sandy retro-pop quintet that’s due to kick it old school at Middlewest Fest Saturday.

Returning to Chicago, Morgan teamed up with This is Me Smiling‘s Dan Duszynski (guitar, vocals), Matt Minx (bass), Adam Coldhouse (drums) and The Yearbooks‘ Eric Hehr (guitar) to release the studio album, Summer House, inspired by her stay in the golden state.

“The analogy of a summer house to me was spending a whole year in California where I had enough money saved where I didn’t have to work,” Morgan said. “Summer House was my year in California, being able to figure out what I wanted to do next and just have time to write and record and work on this material.”

On Summer House, Morgan releases her voice from the jangly melodies of the folksy Hush Sound, and belts soulfully like a diva whose records have tinted with age. Think Rilo Kiley’s Under the Blacklight sun-bleached and dipped in the jumpy thickness of Jet. Though the band’s tunes would sound at home coming through a Zodiac jukebox, Morgan says that her goal wasn’t to be vintage.

“I’m not purposely doing that,” Morgan said. “I actually think that stuff too obviously retro, too me, is a turn off because it’s not inventive. It’s not building on things that have already been done. There are records like the Amy Winehouse record which everyone is calling retro, but really she really furthered the continuum. That’s something we’re focusing on doing too: honoring the great songwriters we all love and the great structures of pop music, but furthering the continuum and doing it in a really modern and inventive way.”

Morgan also pays tribute to her work previous work, bringing to Gold Motel her descriptive naturalistic lyrics that The Hush Sound explored in their 2006 release Like Vines, and refined in 2008’s Goodbye Blues. In the title track to Summer House, she poignantly sings, “At the summer house, I’m curving like the ocean toward you.”

“We live in an increasingly visual society,” Morgan said. “Whenever I hear a song lyric that doesn’t make me connect on another sensory level- if I hear a song that doesn’t make me think about touch, sound, taste, sight, it doesn’t really do anything for me.”

On tracks like “Who Will I Be Tonight,” and “Sunshine All Night,” she carries throughout the album fleeting images of the sun.

“The fascination with the sun was double sided,” Morgan said. “As a Chicagoan living in California for a year, the benefit of the sun was that it was out all the time…there’s beautiful weather, and you want to be out, and the curse is you’re not inside, you’re not getting anything done and the song ‘Sunshine All Night’ was really about the temptation of going out every night, staying up all night every night and not having a real focus to get anything done. Fortunately, at least I had enough focus to get the song.”

Although both Gold Motel and Summer House suggest a temporary arrangement, Morgan says she sees that Gold Motel staying together for a long time, and calls The House Sound’s hiatus “pretty permanent.” The band is already shifting away from the solo vibe and becoming more of a collaborative group. They’ve already recorded two songs for their October vinyl release that were “built from the ground up as a band.”

“I think the two songs on our seven inch are a little bit darker (kind of unintentionally), but they’re definitely a little bit grittier. They’ve got more drive, and more attitudes then the demeanor of the Summer House record,” Morgan said. “I definitely think that no matter what we’re playing, it will always boil down to the fact that its pop music. And whether it’s a melancholy song or an upbeat song, it will always have a strong hook, short melody and a good meaning, that kind of thing. We’ll always boil down to being a pop band.”